World Bank Launches Francophone Africa-Focused Accelerator

The World Bank Group has launched Francophone Africa-focused accelerator programme Afrique Excelle, aimed at supporting scalable tech ventures in the late seed or pre-Series A stage.

Launched yesterday at the Africa Early Stage Investor Summit in Cape Town, Afrique Excelle is an initiative of the World Bank Group, implemented by a consortium of VC4A, Suguba and SahelInnov.

It is a post-accelerator programme designed to support scalable technology ventures in the late seed or pre-Series A stage, that are well-positioned for growth in their domestic market and for cross-border expansion and looking to raise between US$250,000 and US$5 million.

The six-month programme will kick off with a one-week residency in Bamako, Mali in March, and culminate with the final venture showcase at VivaTech 2019, part of the one-week residency in Paris in May.

Afrique Excelle is the Francophone edition of the XL Africa accelerator implemented by the World Bank in 2017, which saw 19 out of 20 portfolio companies secure Series A investment. Both programmes offer help in securing capital as well as access to a tailormade curriculum and the chance to receive mentoring from global and local experts.

 

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Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia Leaders Seek Integration of Horn of Africa Region

Leaders from the Horn of Africa have pledged to work together to spearhead integration between their countries.

Leaders from Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea held a two day meeting in the northern Ethiopia city of Bahir Dar, in a bid to solidify relations.

In a press statement, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, said they would work towards the historic transformation of the Horn of Africa region towards peace and integration.

“The three leaders reviewed developments and achievements since the signing of Asmara joint declaration on friendship and comprehensive cooperation in September and noted with satisfaction the tangible and positive outcomes already registered and agreed to consolidate their mutual solidarity and support in addressing challenges that they face individually and collectively,” said the joint statement.

Eritrea has been subjected to a UN arms embargo since 2009, after UN experts accused Eritrea of providing political, financial and logistical support to armed groups opposing the central government in Somalia. Eritrea has denied the accusations.

The meeting of the three leaders comes amidst wide-spread optimism in the Horn of Africa region that it would move from a chronically unstable region to one of political cooperation and economic integration.

“The three leaders also welcomed the impending lifting of all sanctions against Eritrea and underscored their conviction the lifting of the sanctions would reaffirm their commitment to an inclusive regional peace and cooperation,” reads part of the statement.

 

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ECOWAS Earmarks $46,000 for Proposed Single Currency

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission will commit $46,000 to launch a competition to determine a suitable name and logo for the proposed single currency for the region.

The quest is open to all citizens of ECOWAS member state regardless of their residence as well as legal persons established in an ECOWAS member state in line with its laws.

According to a circular from ECOWAS to this effect, three best proposals will each be selected for the name and logo.

All entries/ proposal are to be submitted by November 20.

Accordingly, all proposals for currency name shall not be based on the name of a person, ethnic group or contain expressions directly linked with a religion, country or national institution among others.

On the other hand, the logo shall among other things, symbolise unity and shared cultural and historical values of ECOWAS.

The first prize for all categories includes $10,000 and $8,000 for the second prize, as well as $5,000 for the third prize.

 

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Africa’s Dominant Mobile Money Service is Going Global

Kenya’s biggest mobile money service M-Pesa is going global in a deal with Western Union that would allow users to send money all over the world.

M-Pesa’s over 23 million active subscribers in Kenya will also be able to send and receive money through their phones and be connected to WU’s 500,000 global agents. Safaricom, which runs M-Pesa, said transfers through bank accounts to Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom will also be available, with services to bank accounts in other countries being rolled out in the coming weeks.

Started 11 years ago as a platform for texting small payments between users, M-Pesa has grown into a service with subscribers in 10 nations across Africa, Europe, and Asia. In Kenya alone, it has 160,000 agents and did over 580 million transactions in the three months ending June 2018, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya.

Its growth has had wider implications for financial inclusion and digital banking, showing banks that mobile money presents an opportunity to increase payments income as well as earn interest on increased deposits. M-Pesa grew so big and so fast that regulators once mulled over splitting it from its parent company—but later backtracked on that proposal.

But as the service grew in numbers, Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore in 2016 called M-Pesa a “clumsy” product that was “far from elegant” when stacked up against other tech products. And so began a process of innovation, one that could stave off competition, help Safaricom diversify its products, widen its mobile and fintech network, and put M-Pesa into the hands of many more users.

In the last few years, the company launched the ride-hailing service Little, an e-commerce platform Masoko, and a music streaming service Songa, which all allowed users to pay for services via M-Pesa. Last October, the operator also launched M-Pesa 1Tap, which used a card, phone sticker or wristband device to allow for secure and faster payments. In February, Google enabled M-Pesa payments on its app store, making the US tech giant one of the first among global digital distribution sites to adapt to mobile money.

In April, Safaricom partnered with PayPal to allow e-commerce businesses to seamlessly transfer money between the two services and into their mobile wallets. The company launched Bonga chat service which let M-Pesa users talk while sending and receiving money. And in a bid to boost its numbers, Safaricom is reportedly taking M-Pesa to Ethiopia, a market of over 100 million that is slowly opening up to investors.

The deal to take M-Pesa global also boosts Western Union which has faced tough competition from fintech startups like TransferWise and WorldRemit that offer cheaper and faster online transfers—forcing the company to cut prices and shift to a digital strategy.

 

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Kenya, South Africa to Launch Long-term Multiple Travel Visas

Long-term visas will become available for South Africans wanting to travel to Kenya and Kenyans wanting to visit South Africa as of December 1.

The announcement was made by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and his Kenyan counterpart Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i on Monday after the two held bilateral talks and took a tour of Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp.

In September Gigaba announced that South Africa would be easing some immigration rules including agreeing to visa waiver agreements with more countries in an effort to boost investment and tourism as part of a broader economic turnaround programme announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The two leaders said both countries would continue working on ways to maximise their cooperation and allowing for passport holders to have long-term multiple entry visa arrangements for business people, academics and frequent travellers between the two countries.

“It’s a historic achievement, we made tremendous progress,” said Matiang’i.

He said as of the arrangement would benefit both countries tremendously.

“This is intended to improve trade between the two countries, interaction between the two countries and to support the people between the two nations engaging in various economic activities of mutual benefit,” said Matiang’i.

He told journalists at the briefing that the east African country viewed its relationship with South Africa as critical and that the presidents of both countries – Ramaphosa and Uhuru Kenyatta – had instructed both ministers to work towards removing barriers and impediments to the growing relationship.

“And today we made a huge achievement in removing those barriers, whatever is left, we will be able to sort out in the next three months,” said Matiang’i.

Praise for Lindela

The Kenyan minister said he believed relaxing visa requirements would lead to the most “seamless interaction between South Africa and Kenya in history.”

Matiang’i also praised the repatriation centre, which he said was a “luxury” for deportees waiting to be processed and taken back to their respective countries.

“The minister has taken me through this facility, I am basically floored, shocked that South Africa actually makes this kind of investment to address the needs of deportees,” said Matiang’i.

South Africa’s home affairs minister, in turn, thanked Kenya for its efforts in preventing illegal immigrants from making their way to the country.

“I thanked the minister for the work they continue to do to repel a lot of illegal immigrants destined for South Africa, on a daily basis hundreds of people are being stopped in Kenya who are destined for South Africa,” said Gigaba.

He added that Kenya contributed to keeping the country safe.

Gigaba said the partnership would contribute to tourism in the two countries and support the visions shared by both Ramaphosa and Kenyatta for free movement of people between the countries.

He said academics and business people would be able to get ten-year visas, while frequent travellers would be able to apply for three-year multiple entry visas, a feat Gigaba said would also alleviate administrative pressure on their respective departments.

 

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Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].